Monday, February 3, 2014

3 Things to Know about the Firing of the DWTS Orchestra

I've received a lot of emails over the last few days asking if the news about the firing of the Dancing With the Stars orchestra is true. The answer is yes. I think it's a big mistake by ABC since it's one of the elements that makes the show so special, but the network is looking at the bottom line: money. I know the reason given for the elimination is to "attract a younger demographic,' but that is not the case.

Here are the three things you should know about the situation:

1. Rick Baptist: He's the person who original put the Facebook post on his page to call attention to the issue. Baptist has worked on DWTS for years and he's well-respected in the industry. Check out his IMDB credits to see his impressive résumé.

2. American Federation of Musicians International:  This is the official musicians' union representing professional performers in the entertainment industry. They issued a statement on Monday regarding their dismissal:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                         
February 3, 2014
CONTACT: Antoinette Follett
(315) 422-4488 ext. 104
AFM President Blasts ABC for firing Dancing with the Stars Orchestra

New York, NY— After 17 hit seasons performing on one of the world’s most popular TV programs, Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), the 28 men and women of the show’s live backing band—the Harold Wheeler Orchestra and Singers—have been fired. Producers say the group will be replaced with pre-existing sound recordings and a “small electric band” to “attract a younger demographic.”
American Federation of Musicians International President Ray Hair blasted ABC-TV for its decision, asking supporters to e-mail to demand the orchestra’s return or risk viewer retaliation. “People who love Dancing with the Stars also love the superb performances of the orchestra because it is such an integral part of the show,” says Hair. “The tight, elaborate musical productions that catapulted the show into the top 10 in 17 countries can’t be duplicated by recordings and a small combo. Viewers, whether they are young or old, will reject that as artistic fraud.”
Network sources say that a recent shift in ABC/Disney’s executive staff in charge of primetime reality series programming led to pressure on DWTS producer BBC America to cut corners and pander to a younger viewing audience. “It’s not like ABC and Disney don’t have any money and can’t afford an orchestra. It’s about the insatiable thirst for profits at the expense of music, art, and those who create it,” says Hair. “Firing the band, using recordings, and hiring fewer musicians won’t boost ratings. It will kill the show.”
Founded in 1896, the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM), AFL-CIO, is the largest organization in the world dedicated to representing the interests of professional musicians. With more than 90,000 members, the AFM represents all types of professional musicians, including those who record music for sound recordings, film scores, videogames, radio, television and commercial announcements, as well as perform music of every genre in every sort of venue from small jazz clubs to symphony orchestra halls to major stadiums. Whether negotiating fair agreements, protecting ownership of recorded music, securing benefits such as health care and pension, or lobbying legislators, the AFM is committed to raising industry standards and placing the professional musician in the foreground of the cultural landscape. For more information, contact the main number at (212) 869-1330 or visit the Web site at
Follow the AFM on Twitter and Facebook

3. The Excuse: ABC can say it's about bringing in "a younger demographic," but having a live orchestra is a luxury. It's expensive to pay for song rights and to pay talent for rehearsals and the show. It's cheaper just to pay for a skeleton crew and song rights. However, it's a huge part of what made DWTS exciting to watch. It brought energy to the show each season and the audience will notice its absence in Season 18.

However, there is still time. The show doesn't launch until March 17, so support the Harold Wheeler Orchestra and Singers by emailing ABC: (NOTE THE CORRECT SPELLING "I" VERSUS "A" in CANDICE'S NAME)

Let's make a difference!

UPDATE: Here's the official press release from BBC Worldwide and ABC regarding Harold Wheeler:

Our talented Music Director, Harold Wheeler, will not be joining us for season 18 of Dancing with the Stars. Since season one, Harold and his band have performed brilliant music in our ballroom for our dancers and the American viewers at home. We are grateful to him and his band for their amazing work and years of collaboration. We wish him the best of luck.


  1. I emailed Candace the other day about this. I'm obviously upset because it's part of what makes DWTS so incredible, but I'm mainly upset because it could change the dances and choreography. Just look at Maria and Derek's rumba for example. That's a routine that wouldn't have existed without an orchestra. Also, when they did plugged/unplugged week this past season, most of the unplugged dances they did were some of the best of the season. You just can't get audio tracks for things like this. It's upsetting because for the pros that are great creatively (Derek, Karina, Mark, Cheryl, Val) they don't have the option to slow something down, create certain accents, ect, and create better choreography without the orchestra. I understand cost cutting, but at some point they lose the essence of what makes DWTS so special.

    1. And thank you of course for posting/addressing even during the off season on your blog :)

    2. Hi Kaitlyn!
      You raise great points from the creative point of view. It won't be the same. It limits the choreography and the incredible work we see from some of the pros. I am hoping there is still time to save the orchestra…6 weeks to go! Fingers crossed.

  2. let's trend! Tweet this: Favorite if you want the DWTS's orchestra back & RT if you want ABC to know that! @DancingABC #bringtheorchestraback

  3. It is a shame that ABC has done this. I understand that the Orchestra is expensive but using a skeleton crew and the original song does not do the same for the dances. I remember when the show first started, there were no props used (actually Len would get all bent out of shape for all the props), it was just about the dancing and the music. I can do without all of the props. Last season when Snooki was on, she had a dance where there were several lighted trees on the dance floor. I was so distracted by those trees that it took away from her dance.

    I remember back when Chelsea Kane was on and when she did the VWaltz with Mark Ballas (the Wizard Waltz) there was a full orchestra and they even added more to it that week. That was one of the best dances I saw. The music was beautiful and went so well with the dance. That entire night has some great performances with the live music.

    ABC is really trying to ruin an amazing show that people have watched for many years. The younger demographic is not going to stay around. They will only be there when there is a young celebrity. They are alienating their original fan base that loves to watch the journeys of the stars and how they get along with their partners. They have already eliminated the back stage confessionals and we see less of the rehearsal footage. This was the best part of the show and helped you to connect with the stars, especially those that you are not very familiar with.

    1. Even though the show still does well, it doesn't draw the amount of fans or advertising dollars like it used to. As a result, they start taking things away to save money. For hardcore fans, it's disappointing to watch the show go downhill…until it is eventually cancelled. :(

  4. I don't think they are trying to ruin the show. Though I too wonder what they are thinking? I mean...change is good. I realize that. I also realize they are trying to get younger fans to watch. But, I don't think the orchestra has anything to do with it. Ya know...I really liked the show last night when they had BOTH the orchestra and played recordings. I wish they'd just stick with doing that. Why not have BOTH?

    1. I think the only reason is financial. They are trying to make as much money as possible by spending as little money as possible. I know for a fact that they've cut down on the food budget on set, too.

  5. night= season (sorry about that. lol)

  6. Is there a petition? Wouldn't that help? I'd start one if there is not an existing one.


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